Youth day dialogue: Elevating the African child, leaving no child behind “Agenda 2030”

On June 16th 2020, the Africa Unite Exchange Programme team arranged a youth dialogue via WhatsApp for various leaders in youth engagement. The dialogue attracted more than 83 participants from countries all over Africa, we had participants from South Africa, Malawi, Ghana, Congo, Lesotho, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Madagascar etc. The purpose of the Youth Day dialogue was to deliberate the challenges faced by an African child and to map out solutions to those challenges so that the African child is not left behind the achievement of 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The theme of the dialogue was “Discourse: Voices and Issues affecting an African child, so he/she is not left behind come 2030.”

One of our Exchange Peer Educators from Malawi facilitated the online dialogue, and she began by contextualizing the importance of this day. She detailed that on June 16th in South Africa, we commemorate the students who lost their lives during the Soweto uprisings on this day in 1991. She also acknowledged the courage of the students who marched for their right to education. She noted that for the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved children should and cannot be left behind. Overall, the dialogue sought to celebrate an African child, despite the diverse and complex challenges faced.  Moreover, the platform allowed the participants to learn from the past and present leaders and device solutions for the contemporary problems faced by an African child. Our Exchange Peer Educator’s message to the African child was: “I dream of a world where you can laugh, dance, sing, learn and live in peace and be happy.” –  Malala Yousafzai. 

The introduction of the dialogue revolved around the aspirations of a united Africa that supports each other regardless of artificial borders. An Africa that taps into its natural resources and uses those to their advantage to cut dependency and cultivate self-sufficiency. An Africa that does not depend on external funding as those limit Africa to fully achieve her objectives as a continent. An Africa where African children can see it heal and move on from the woundedness that poses a threat to our unity, peace and tolerance.

One significant topic raised during the dialogue was that education is a fundamental instrument to preserve cultural values and beliefs. The transformation of a group’s customs, beliefs, laws and institution can be referred to as social change. Education is key to development and transformation as it facilitates social change to both the individual and the community at large. Teachers are agents of change, training the stimulus, and the students are the recipients and preservers of change.

One of the speakers stated that the United Nations dream to achieve sustainable development has an element of leaving no one behind. That means if Africa has to accomplish these goals, everyone, including an African child, has to be involved.

The dialogue also uncovered an interesting discussion regarding juvenile justice systems. It highlighted that access to child-friendly investigation and fair trial should be created to ensure that African children have access to reasonable judgements. Without child-friendly studies and child-friendly trials, there cannot be talks about access to justice or fair assessment. Therefore, advocating for impartial investigations for an African child to feel free to speak to officials from investigative wings who are trained to handle children and not treat them like criminals is what we ought to do. If and when investigations are friendly, a child will be able to open up easily, thus, leading to a fair trial.

Another challenge of African children revealed during the dialogue centred around an African identity crisis. The African youth does not know who they are. The question was raised of “How do we define ourselves when we are bombarded by a multitude of cultural definitions of our identity?”. The western or developed world aggressively flashes an overwhelming amount of information that more often than not, tells us to define ourselves by external measures, that leads to further confusion on the African child. Before we can know what we are meant to do and how we can help our continent, we must understand who we are as children of Africa. From that point of departure, it will be easy to create, innovate and develop technologies, systems and infrastructure that is uniquely tailored to solve our African challenges.

The responses of the participants demonstrated the need for teaching the African identity as well. The following issue was raised by a participant: “a lot of the social issues at hand come as a result of how we view ourselves, identity and the various levels of this is of utmost importance, we as African changemakers or people vested in the well-being of our people need to start changing the dynamic on a micro and macro scale,” The participants also acknowledged that Africans must learn more about Africa and less about European history through active and innovative learning. Our children must be built to be independent not seeing the western world as a superbeing.

Way Forward:
The group decided the only way to move forward was to agree to lead by example for the future generation. The road ahead lies in education and bringing the youth voice to the table that this was just the start of a movement to advance the African child.

For more information about the dialogue and our programs, please contact,

Nthati Lesaoana,

Human Rights Manager

Tel. +27-21-461-6551
Cell: 076 460 4331

Email: nthati@africaunite.org.za

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